City chief says media ‘holding council back’

Alexander the Great. Picture: Getty

Alexander the Great. Picture: Getty

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Clock-watching staff, critical local media and meddling elected representatives are holding the council back, according to a city chief.

One of the council’s most senior officials made the claims in a bizarre presentation given to fellow executives that has drawn the ire of staff and unions.

In a recent speech to fellow senior council staff, director of economic development Greg Ward implied that clock-watching staff, critical local media and meddling elected representatives are holding the council back, using legendary Macedonian general Alexander the Great as his template.

The executive has staff hot under the armour for suggesting that Alexander’s armies would have struggled to conquer the ancient world from Egypt to India if its ranks were manned by Edinburgh council workers – because they would have been too busy totting up their overtime.

Union bosses criticised the “macho management” of senior officials, claiming that low-paid staff are already working many hours of unpaid overtime.

Slides from Mr Ward’s “Pride in our People” presentation seen by the Evening News confirm the outlandish comparison between the council and Macedonian war machine, which was abandoned for subsequent talks after he reflected on his choice of “wry humour”.

One slide depicts what a conversation between “Alec” and his soldiers would be like, if they worked for the council. “I can’t fight the Spartans today,” the council worker says. “I’m owed a half day flexi.”

Another lays into criticism of expensive international trips for senior managers by the local media and councillors, imagining how the Evening News would report a junket attended by the ancient general.

“Alexander the Great spent five drachmas on a jolly to the South of France,” it reads. “Councillor expresses outrage.”

Unison branch president John Stevenson isn’t laughing. He said: “We already know that local government workers in particular consistently do free overtime. If you take some of the lowest paid, we’ll soon have a pile of people who are paid less than the minimum wage on an hourly rate.

“Senior managers have the flexibility to come and go as they please without anybody asking about it, but they have to remember that they’re not tied to a desk. If comments like that are being made perhaps they should read the council’s own policy on work-life balance.

“This shows the endemic problem we have in some departments in the council with macho management. The top of the tree does not understand the task on the ground, and people are being put under more and more stress.”

Council chief executive Sue Bruce said: “In his initial presentation, Greg sought to introduce some wry humour in amongst some more serious messages. After reflecting on the first session, he amended his slides for the subsequent five.”

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

• Tutored by founder of western philosophy, Aristotle

• Defeated the Persian Empire, the superpower of the ancient world

• Cut the Gordian Knot, the toughest puzzle in antiquity

• Founded a handful of legendary cities, naming them after himself, like Alexandria in Egypt

CITY COUNCIL

• Not enough classes to tutor city kids

• Struggling to defeat an army of litterers and dog foulers

• Still puzzling over how to fill the city’s potholes

• Forced to change street-naming policy after News campaign to honour Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly